I recently asked a question about the origin of the term 'buff' and received a comment saying:

This question appears to be off-topic because it is about historical trivia about the origin of a word.

I also read an almost identical question asking about the origin of 'noob', which has not been closed as off-topic.

After reading over the "How to ask" pages and found nothing relating to these types of questions being off-topic.

Are these questions off-topic?

  • Questions that are very old are rarely good precedent for what is on or off topic today. And that question is almost as old as the site itself. It took a while for us to figure out what should be on topic, and borderline (at the time) questions like that helped us figure that out. Jul 28, 2014 at 3:23
  • There are at least a couple more that I would vote to close, but I'm leery to go on a closing spree until I see what others think. Personally, I see no utility in actually helping you play a game from these questions, hence I don't believe they belong here.
    – Frank
    Jul 28, 2014 at 3:29
  • 21
    I don't think "utility in actually helping you play a game" is the criteria we should be using to determine on-topic-ness. Jul 28, 2014 at 3:31
  • 4
    Rule of thumb; don't freak out to meta over one or two close votes. The question is still open. The reason it takes five, is because sometimes, people get it wrong. Jul 28, 2014 at 13:02
  • @StrixVaria Actually, I believe it makes an absolutely perfect criteria for questions asked here. That is, after all, our entire focus.
    – Frank
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:08
  • 7
    @Frank That is what you believe our entire focus to be. I think we are already and should continue to be more expansive than that, catering to all expert gaming topics, including those directly related to playing games and others. Jul 28, 2014 at 17:22
  • @Strix We actually have several off-topic reasons that specifically limit what we do and don't allow. I don't see this falling into anything extreme based on those, just a natural extension of the spirit of those same reasons. For one, we're not a news site. Any historical trivia falls into Googling for an answer; there's absolutely nothing there that plays to our expertise. Unless you can answer it from in-game knowledge, it shouldn't be here. Very few exceptions, in my book. Yeah, that's my personal opinion, and I've always stated it as such.
    – Frank
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:48
  • 6
    @Frank We aren't a news site, but at the same time, this stuff is hardly news. And maybe our expertise is googling, or maybe I read a book about it, or in game lore, or books in that game's franchise. Gaming terminology is very much gamer knowledge.
    – user11502
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:51
  • Historical trivia isn't terminology. We're not asking what a term means. We're asking where did it come from? And that answer is entirely useless. Nowhere in there does knowing where a term came from part of our expert knowledge. It is incidental knowledge, at the very best. It cannot be expected to be part of our knowledge base in any sense.
    – Frank
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:57
  • 2
    @Frank - We are but the sum of our experiences. My gaming experience includes learning the gaming culture, the lingo, the communities, attending conventions, LAN parties, midnight releases, cosplaying as my favourite game character(s), getting immersed in game storlines, reading TF2 comics, knowing about the trends and topics that gamers care about and discuss to death. Knowing that Valve=Good but EA=bad, knowing about Doritosgate, knowing that we'll never see Half Life 3, and many, many more.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Jul 29, 2014 at 3:50
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    (cont.) Not all of these can be covered in the Q&A format for several reasons, but good, objective, and answerable content such as where a gaming term originated should remain firmly on-topic. I'm sorry that you view gaming as a task to complete and nothing more, but that's not where the majority sit.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Jul 29, 2014 at 3:51
  • @Robotnik It has nothing to do with seeing it as a task to complete. It has everything to do with zero utility. There is nothing, nothing at all, that benefits from this knowledge. It's the essence of the word trivia; useless knowledge. Are we honestly making the internet better by allowing these questions? All we're doing is regurgitating what's already been said elsewhere. Doing nothing but parrotting the internet does us a great disservice.
    – Frank
    Jul 29, 2014 at 4:08
  • @Frank meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/a/9827/30879
    – Memor-X
    Jul 30, 2014 at 1:47
  • I am amused - I was just coming to Meta specifically to ask about whether historical questions were on topic here, or if I should go to GameDev. And this is currently the top meta question.
    – Bobson
    Aug 1, 2014 at 5:42
  • why not just make another tag historical trivia or terms or such. i mean its still gaming after all right?
    – ken
    Aug 10, 2014 at 10:25

4 Answers 4


In general: no, it's not a prohibited category or something, it's a question about video games, and we allow those. Furthermore, your question hasn't been closed.

However: it has had a close vote cast in it's direction, because it falls along one of several fault lines in the community that makes it pretty borderline. Questions not terribly unlike yours often require closure for a whole host of other reasons (because remember, Off-Topic is but one of many), and suffer from other quality issues which are not the result of a categorical flaw of the subject matter.

Tl;dr don't sweat one close vote. People get things wrong regularly.


apologies for making most of this an answer ebing a reply to some comments but it was far too long for a comment and i was not willing to making 5+ comments in a row given the wait time in between comments.

Firstly, i do believe Historical Trivia Question are on-topic so long as it still relates to gaming, after all, anything on the will become Historical Trivia, anything on the probably already is Historical Trivia, after all, what doe Nes stand for? would be on topic 50 year from now wouldn't it (provided it wasn't a duplicate).

All knowledge becomes historical as time goes by, to say that all Historical Trivia is off-topic is to say "we wont answer anything about the history which has made us what we are today" and what may have little importance to some may be of great importance to others

@Frank I disagree that there is nothing at all that benefits from asking the origin of a word when it's about gaming, otherwise you have to say that someone asking where "roguelike" originates from is off topic aswell. while it may be Historical trivia later on down the track (if it isn't already) it's foolish and blind to deny that knowing where it originates from is in any not beneficial, i doubt you can explain what "rougelike" mean without explaining it's origins.

While in the linked question "Buff" isn't a gaming unique term touching on it's origins helps in understanding how it's meaning is then conveyed to the term we know in gaming. look at BammaHamma's Answer and the English.SE answer we see where it originated from, how it's meaning has altered/been appended though history and how we can logically see why it is used in gaming in the way BammaHamma described.

Could you answer why L.A Noir is named as it is without explaining where the term Film-Noir originates from which would also include it's meaning?

Good answers always regurgitate what's already been said elsewhere weather it's the internet, books, tv series, any other midea, it's called citing your sources/evidence when providing a factual answer, it makes an answer better, otherwise you making s*** up.

Paul on Modern Family says "W.T.F, Why the Face" when i was brought up thinking "WTF = What The F***". While not about gaming if someone wasn't brought up like me and saw this, they would take WTF as Why The Face, they see it everywhere else and think it is from Modern Family the term originates from, they see a friend down the street depressed and in a chat room or text says "i saw u today, wtf?" and the recipient, knowing that WTF = What the F*** misreads it.

Without knowing the origin they can't grasp the meaning as such this breeds misconception and confusion, if given the argument of which is correct i'm going to regurgitate what's already been said elsewhere in order to prove my point.

you've regurgitate what's already been said elsewhere here by changing

A pregnant cow will stay inside your barn for 20 days, and the baby cow will have half the friendship hearts as its mother


it will take 20 days to give birth to a calf. It will have half the hearts of the mother.

ofcause, if by regurgitate what's already been said elsewhere you mean blanket copy and paste jobs these are going to be shadowed by more impressive answers, hell, i tend to down vote said answers especially if citation markers are left in cause this shows a clear lack of research and understanding of the person's own answer.

  • There's a very large difference between finding information that is available in-game, but has a website reference elsewhere, and that which can only be found outside of a game. I'm not saying to eliminate googleable answers, but questions that cannot be answered from information in-game. That is what I am very much against, because there is nothing there for our expertise.
    – Frank
    Jul 30, 2014 at 1:54
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    @Frank you say "our expertise" "our expert knowledge" "our knowledge base", are you saying we all just play games because they are games, that we didn't want to learn what they may teach us like what Spec Ops: The Line did, what they actually represent like what Child of Eden represents, that we just accept terms like "buff", "noob", "troll", "pker" and "vanilla" because they are trendy and not look into what they mean, where they had came from or how they had transitioned into terms used in gaming.
    – Memor-X
    Jul 30, 2014 at 4:03
  • Because that is the only expertise we can be expected to have, as a community. That is the core goal of what we do here. Yeah, we might have other, incidental areas each of us is good at, but those aren't something we can count on. It's playing games that we do, and that is what our expertise is based on. Nothing more, nothing less.
    – Frank
    Jul 30, 2014 at 15:43
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    @Frank What are you, the hivemind? You are assuming that collective intelligence of every user in Arqade is solely focused on providing "playing games" expertise, not "learning in games" expertise. As a gaming community, we should be proficient at EVERY different expertise out there, not just this ridiculous preconceived notion of "real gamers play the game just to play the game"
    – childe
    Jul 31, 2014 at 18:09
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    @lumbricuslubricant That's because "real gamers" are us nerds that are so obsessed with our games we research the heck out of it just to know every bit of backstory. Or every bit of the game. Or both. ;) I certainly know my current Pokemon research (stepped up as of X and Y) is the sign of a true nerd. And a girl with too much time on her hands, but I like the true nerd title better.
    – LLF
    Aug 2, 2014 at 1:26

Historical trivia is one of the 3 biggest topics where people here often have completely different opinions (The others being Lore Questions and ).

The thing with these questions: While they are not explicitly off-topic (Lore Questions even being mentioned in the FAQ as on-topic), they often bring up a lot of discussion.

If you search for "Historical Trivia" on meta, you can see that the community opinion tends to be rather on than off topic (not by much though).

As with lore or tech questions: you can ask them here but you should expect down or even close votes. While I personally don't have a problem with these questions per se, I can see some negative aspects: They don't actively help a problem, it's often hard to ask a "good" question and as in your question; sometimes these questions are better asked on another SE site or even on a completely other site.

But then again: A lot of questions that fall under the category of historical trivia can be answered correctly by an expert. A thing that is also noticeable with these questions is that most of the time the questions are downvoted and sometimes closed while the answers have a pretty high upvote count in general. This kind of proves for me that these questions are not always bad. They lead to good answers and while as already mentioned they don't help with an active problem they can still be interesting and answerable by an expert (But we are no linguistic experts. So please ask questions about origins of words on the respective other sites).

  • 1
    How do technical-issues questions not "actively help a problem"?
    – Batophobia
    Jul 28, 2014 at 15:33

The main issue I have is that @LessPop's answer does nothing to actually argue that they're on-topic. It just says, "They are, because they are." When our previous meta that governed these questions was this one, I believe, which says that they're actually not.

We've already got a close reason for identifying a game based on which was first to use a mechanic. But if we're now allowing questions about historical trivia, we're starting to show some inconsistencies in our policies, and we need to clear up what is and what isn't allowed.

Think about it. I'm going to use our latest historical trivia question as an example. We have two questions:

  1. Origin of achievements (bad title, I know). Where did achievements come from? They're pretty standard in games now.
  2. Which game was the first to use achievements?

When you boil it down, these two questions are going to give the same answer. But as our current policy stands, the first is on-topic, while the second is not. We're going to get an answer that attempts to answer it by pointing at the earliest game that used the system. Never mind that there's not much in the way of proof, and there's no way to answer this definitively at all. It's basically going to be the earliest game someone can find that matches the criteria, until we find an earlier one. I think that's why they were off-topic to begin with; lack of proof, lack of authoritive answers, and most important to me: incidental expertise. Answering these questions requires a skillset outside of what can be expected, and is generally a, "Google this for me" kind of question.

But regardless of my feelings on the problematic nature of these questions, we need to come up with something that properly defines the scope of historical trivia allowable. Because right now, on or off topic-ness is being defined by whether or not you ask for a game or not. Is this the criteria we really want to use? We're going to allow questions that don't ask for a game, on a gaming website? I'm not sure what or how we can really answer this, and my personal bent has been to disallow them.

But let's set some consistent criteria for this, shall we?

  • erm @frank this should be its own question as you are asking something
    – Flaunting
    Aug 12, 2014 at 15:03
  • I have created a chat to discuss this properly please join
    – Flaunting
    Aug 12, 2014 at 15:09
  • the previous question that you link to you claim states that the questions are not on topic but that was not conclusively answered
    – Flaunting
    Aug 12, 2014 at 15:15
  • I don't agree those questions are going to give the same, or even similar answers. One asks for the origin of a mechanic, which I would expect to cite things like press releases, history of consoles, and multiple games, the other asks for a game, which would just be a game.
    – DCShannon
    Dec 9, 2015 at 3:35

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